On September 12–13, we reignited the conversation our country needs to have about addiction.
Joined by a crowd of 300 and countless virtual attendees, the inaugural Rethink Addiction National Convention brought together people with lived and living experience from across the country, centring truth-telling over formality, in an effort to rethink how addiction is perceived and treated in Australia.
When the campaign launched in 2020, our vision was to establish addiction as a national political priority and present a case for change to the decision makers of this country.
For those of you who joined us, I’m sure you will all agree that the Convention demonstrated just how far we have come in advancing that goal.
A spotlight on lived and living experience
This week, we heard that addiction exists in our families, our workplaces, our sporting clubs and across our communities. Hearing the real stories of addiction showed that we are stronger than how society currently defines us. By uniting together, through our shared experiences, we can effect the change we want to see. I would like to thank all of our participants who contributed so willingly to this event. When we started planning for the National Convention, we wanted the stories of those with lived and living experience to be at the heart of the convention program — and wow, you didn’t disappoint! You are the key to changing the hearts and minds of our fellow Australians, and we need to keep providing a platform so that your stories continue to be heard and amplified, which gives others the courage to do the same. On the first day of the Convention, Anne Iverson, a family support worker, shared her experience of supporting her son living with addiction and her innate need to connect with a community. Anne remarked that one of the first things people say when they come to a support meeting is, “We are not alone”. In a similar vein, throughout the two-day program, the feeling of being a part community, of mutual understanding, was palpable.
Acknowledging our supporters As a movement dedicated to bringing the voices of people with lived and living experience to the fore, I would like to start by thanking our fantastic keynote speakers David Campbell, Shanna Whan, Kate Seselja and Mustafa Elkhishin. To our panellists and audience contributors, I thank you for lending your voices, perspectives and experiences to such an important and timely conversation.
To the amazing Jon Faine, thank you for leading such thought-provoking discussions throughout each session. These two days would not have gone as smoothly as they have without you at the helm. Thank you to the Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention and Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health, the Honourable Emma McBride for her video message to open this morning’s proceedings and her support of this National Convention. Ms Rebekha Sharkie, member for Mayo, South Australia for her contribution to our event and for her important work with gambling reform. To our major sponsors, the Australian Federal Government and Department of Health and Aged Care, Eastern Health, Indivior, Odyssey House Victoria, the Ted Noffs Foundation and Turning Point, and all of our other sponsors, thank you. Without your generous contributions this event would not have been possible.
Our brains trust who has generously given their time over the past 12 months to help put the convention program together, thank you. And finally, to everyone in attendance whether in-person or virtually, thank you for your contribution and for being part of this historic occasion to help us change the conversation around addiction.
We are calling for a national response to alcohol, other drugs and gambling harm, and an end to the stigma that prevents people from across Australia from accessing the help they rightfully deserve. I encourage you all to continue your support of the Rethink Addiction campaign. What we experienced at the Convention is that Rethink Addiction is about helping us to come together, to share our voices and experiences, to show the community and policymakers that there is a better way. I ask you to sign our pledge, which calls for us to tackle stigma by calling it out when we see or hear it. We can change the conversation by sharing the campaign’s facts, figures, and the real stories of addiction. Help build the movement by sharing the pledge to Rethink Addiction and encourage others to do the same. Most importantly, contact your local Member of Parliament, share the pledge with them, and let them know that responding to addiction is an issue that matters to you. If you are not already a campaign partner, and would like to join the 60 plus organisations leading change, please get in contact with us.
We’re just getting started
As we continue the great work of the campaign, we are looking ahead to its next phase, which will include announcements on Rethink Addiction ambassadors, and how we make the campaign ongoing and sustainable. If anyone feels inspired to consider making an ongoing financial contribution to support Rethink Addiction, we would love to hear from you! We will continue our conversations with stakeholders from across civil society, including sporting codes, and the business and philanthropic community, to help grow Rethink Addiction into a campaign that draws on support from across our nation. By doing this, we can make our collective voice even louder and create a movement that leads to real change for the one in four Australians who experience alcohol, other drug and gambling harm. I look forward to continuing our great work, and working together to change the conversation and help Australia to Rethink Addiction. Professor Dan Lubman AM, Spokesperson for Rethink Addiction